#110 - "A hot mess, just like the original" - theatre review, Jubilee 01/03/18

Lyric Theatre Hammersmith

Chris Goode’s stage remix of Derek Jarman’s 1978 film is a hot mess, just like the original: an angry, gender-fluid, art-punk yowl against convention. Toyah Willcox’s Elizabeth I is transported to 2018 where the Sex Pistols’ nihilistic slogan, No Future, has come true. This is a world of aimlessly murderous youth, crushed by cynicism and fake history. The ‘plot’ is a random prowl through ideas about authenticity and authority, built around shouty song and dance routines and showy nudity. The cast give it a lot of welly and even though I didn’t enjoy it very much, I’m kind of glad someone is out there doing this stuff.  

#109 - "Great physical precision and emotional truth" - Theatre review, Girls & Boys, 27/02/18

Royal Court Theatre

I often feel short-changed by monologues but Dennis Kelly’s is a superior one. For one thing, a riveting Carey Mulligan conjures up scenes of credible family life in between direct addresses to the audience. For another what starts out as a deft and witty description of a working-class woman’s career and marriage morphs into something more chilling. The pert and angular Mulligan brings great physical precision and emotional truth to the role of the un-named narrator – part stand-up, part-storyteller, eventually a testifier. Lyndsay Turner’s production has a quiet, cumulative power and the domestic tale it tells feels relevant for the wider world right night.

#108 - "lovely and loving" - theatre review, The York Realist 23/02/18

Donmar Warehouse

Peter Gill’s 60s-set rural gay romance is small and perfectly formed – I’d call it a gem but it’s too soft and giving for that. Yorkshire tenant famer George (granite Ben Batt) lives with his ailing ma and starts an affair with the young assistant director of the Mystery plays he’s appearing in. But ties of habit and geography prove stronger than sexual love, even as family connections whither. Robert Hastie’s production has consummate ease and (yes) realism thanks to its cast of seven, and paints a lovely and loving picture of a world already gone before Gill set it down in 2001.

#107 - "Clumsy and ungiving" - Theatre review, Frozen, 22/02/18

Theatre Royal Haymarket

Not sure what’s more surprising: that Byrony Lavery’s clumsy and ungiving study of child-abuse and forgiveness won so many awards on its premiere, or that the estimable Suranne Jones, Jason Watkins and Nina Sosanya were lured to Jonathan Munby’s starkly exposing revival. Watkins’s hateful serial offender rapes and kills the daughter of Jones’s Nancy: Sosanya’s psychologist, suffering glibly uncomparable guilt and grief of her own, investigates if he’s evil or ill – abused turned abuser. It unfolds mostly in clunky monologue studded with awkward attempts at humour and despite sterling attempts by the leads fails to convince either as an intellectual or human drama.

#106 - "A whimper, not a bang" - theatre review, The Captive Queen, 14/02/18

Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare's Globe

One can see the thinking behind Barrie Rutter’s final production for Northern Broadsides – John Dryden’s slice of Indian exoticism, originally titled Aureng-zebe, renamed and reclaimed by a mostly Asian cast. But the play is a confused tale of family struggle and love told in tum-ti-tum rhyming couplets, and the setting in a Bradford textile mill adds nothing. Worse, the acting is subdued and school play-ish, with Rutter himself (as the emperor, one of at least four characters in love with Neerja Naik’s titular queen) particularly stiff and strange. This ballsy company shuts up shop with a whimper, rather than a bang.

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